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The One Thing I Say to Shut Down the Mom-Shamers

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Mom shaming is real, y’all — and it happens to all of us at an alarming rate, often leaving us to feel doubtful, confused, angry, and defensive. Worst of all, it’s sadly become the norm, not the exception.

I myself have had a million little moments of feeling judged, but a few stick out more than others. Case in point: Last year, I had an appointment I needed to get to, so I put my then 2-year-old toddler into a baby carrier and strolled into the lab office. After my name was called, I was escorted back to a room where a tech soon strolled in. Almost immediately, she wrinkled her nose at me and said, “Can’t your child walk?”

I was stunned. Then I muttered a bunch of sentences including, “A lab is not a place for a baby to walk around,” and “He likes being carried,” and “Yes, he can walk.” Then I thought about everything that’s in a lab that’s not baby-friendly — you know, like needles, blood, and urine. So I threw a sentence in about that, too.

In essence, I babbled, attempting to justify my actions to a woman I had met five seconds ago. But why? Why did I care what she thought? Why did I even bother answering her question? Why were my parenting choices any of her business? And worse, what if my child had a disability where he couldn’t actually walk?

These days, parenting choices are always up for discussion. Just ask a question about breastfeeding, circumcision, vaccines, co-sleeping, or baby leashes and watch the war begin. Bring up discipline, and you’ll be peppered with phrases like “helicopter parents,” “attachment,” “back in the day,” and “free range parenting.” Share what you’re considering naming your unborn child, and prepare yourself for a slew of opinionated comments and maybe even a virtual finger wagging. Bring up ordering cupcakes for your kindergartner’s birthday party instead of making them from scratch, and you’ll meet some real pearl clutchers.

The days of silent judgement or quiet whispering are over. Wear your baby incorrectly (or at all), bed share with your preschooler, decline to have a gender-reveal party, and you’ll get a one-way ticket to Judgement Town. It’s a loud place, with many buzzing voices, all at odds with one another.

Though I’m now a mom of four, and pretty confident in my decisions by now, I do worry what nay-sayers do to new mothers, who are still getting their parental sea legs. It seems rare that someone approaches a mom simply to admire her baby and tell her she’s doing a great job.

I think moms need to go back to trusting their instincts. After all, we know our children best. The stranger on the Internet, the know-it-all at the grocery store, and the parenting “expert” hardly have it all figured out. None of us do. We’re all just trying our best for the sake of our kids.

Mom shamers are a lot like bullies. They are good at disguising their nastiness. They might approach you out of “concern,” all in the name of Experience, but their end goal is to show you how awesome they are and how deficient you are. They really don’t care about the well-being of your offspring. They just need to feel important, and that comes at the cost of your vulnerability. And mothers, we are some of the most vulnerable, mostly because we’re almost always exhausted from keeping up with and caring for our children.

We can’t change our circumstances: we’re in the trenches of mommyhood. But we can change our reactions to those who take it upon themselves to shame.

When someone asks me (again) why we adopted instead of having our “own kids,” when a stranger disapproves of my child wearing her shoes on the wrong feet, or when someone passive aggressively comments on me wearing my now 3-and-a-half-year-old son, I shut them down. Easily. And you can, too.

Just look the person directly in the eye and say these five magic words: “I’m okay with my choices.”

I’m okay with the fact that my infant daughter is not breastfeeding. I’m okay with my almost four-year-old son wanting to be carried sometimes. I’m okay with my athletic daughter wearing black and silver boy’s basketball shorts every single day. I’m ok with my son playing with dolls. I’m okay with my children’s spread-out vaccine schedule. I’m okay with not allowing my kids to have food dyes. I’m okay being a stay-at-home-mom. I’m okay with using disposable diapers. I’m okay letting my kids listen to “Baby Got Back.”

And my choices are no better or worse, more or less loving or educated, than your choices. If you want to nurse your child until he’s 5, go for it. If you plan to take your kid to daycare when she’s 8 weeks old, do it. If you believe in only buying ecologically responsible toys for your toddler, great! If baby-wearing makes you cringe, work your stroller, girl! If you feel that private school is the best way to educate your second-grader, fabulous.

Because I am okay — and you are, too. And neither of us have time for mom shamers. We’re too busy being incredible mothers to our children.

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